Book banning not acceptable (Letter to the Editor)
We are writing representing a diverse and interfaith collection of clergy who have congregants in Glen Ridge. It has come to our attention that a group, under the moniker of Citizens Defending Education, has been advocating the removal of six books from the Glen Ridge Public Library, all of which deal with LGBTQ+ themes. We are writing to strongly encourage the board to reject their proposal and keep these books in rotation.
Each of our traditions, in their own way, value thoughtful discourse. Our goal is to learn from everyone, to access their wisdom and to add to our own. At the center of that effort are our public libraries. There is no place else with as much collected knowledge. If each book opens us to a new world, then its shelves contain a universe of possibility. Anytime a book is banned, it limits the possibility of growth for us and our congregants.
The six books that are up for consideration are deeply important for our community. Most of us have congregants who identify as LGBTQ+. They need books that tell their story. These works give voice to what they are feeling and experiencing. As they see themselves on their pages, they feel as if someone understands them and thus feel less alone.
But even for those who do not identify as LBGTQ+, books like these are crucial avenues for growth. Reading their stories engender empathy and understanding, bringing more kindness and openness into our callous world. They give us a greater appreciation for the struggles that the LGBTQ+ community undergoes. A good book should help us embody the world of the other, making it seem less foreign and in our collective familiarity bringing us close.
Additionally, free speech matters to us, in part, because it is the bedrock on which religious freedom is built. Too many of our traditions have faced censorship. Hatred is a habit. The more groups are silenced, the easier it gets to continue to do so.
Book banning is a slippery slope. Once any idea is stifled, it becomes more acceptable to attack every idea. And without the understanding that comes with reading, the unfamiliar will always feel other. Enmity blooms in the unknown.
We hope you will reject the proposal to ban these books. We stand united in support of our congregants as we seek to bring more conversation, understanding and love to our world.
Rabbi Marc Katz, Temple Ner Tamid; Cantor Meredith Greenberg, Temple Ner Tamid; Rev. John A. Mennell, St. Luke's Episcopal Church; Susan Stillman, clerk of Montclair Friends Meeting; Rabbi Julie Roth, Congregation Shomrei Emunah; Rabbi Ariann Weitzman, Bnai Keshet; Rabbi Laurence Groffman, Temple Shalom of West Essex.
Rabbi Sharon Litwin, Temple Ner Tamid; Rev. John Rogers, First Congregational Church of Montclair; Pastor Margarette Ouji, First Lutheran Church of Montclair; Rev. Ronald E. Verblaauw, Union Congregational Church; Rev. Katrina Forman, Union Congregational Church; Most Rev. George R. Lucey, St. Francis of Assisi American National Catholic Church; Rabbi E. Noach Shapiro, Montclair; Rev. Jeff Mansfield, Glen Ridge Congregational Church; Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Bnai Keshet.
Rev. Ann Ralosky, First Congregational Church of Montclair; Rev. Fr. Geety Reyes, FCM, St. Francis of Assisi American National Catholic Church; April DiComo, clerk of ministry and counsel, Montclair Friends; Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook, St. James Church; Rev. Peter Wilkinson, Central Presbyterian Church; Pastor Anita Wright, Trinity Presbyterian Church; Rev. Kay Dubuisson, St. Mark's United Methodist Church; Rev. Robin Miller Currás, Grace Presbyterian Church; Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair; Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair